What, a disappointment?!

"the octopus in the room"

I wrote a comment on someone else's blog a few weeks ago, which I've really wanted to share here. I've held off until now, because it could be seen as offensive to certain members of my extended family. But this is it, these are my experiences, and I've lived to tell the tale and I've risen to make meaning out of these seemingly random events that I've encountered, and so and so and so... I'm hoping these people either don't go online enough to bother with this blog and/or appreciate the beauty that I have found in the midst of ugliness.

Sarah Wilson (Australian journalist) recently posted about lowering expectations as a way of being pleasantly surprised by life. I get what she's saying, don't set yourself up for a fall by expecting to much of yourself and others. But part of me feels like this is pretty defeatist. "If I train myself not to expect much, I won't be disappointed by the nothing that I get and therefore I'll be happy." It sounds ok, but all you're doing is trying to protect yourself from disappointment, as though you can trick yourself into not being disappointed, as though disappointment is something you can foresee and avoid.

I think the let downs are one of life's most useful things. The way a person responds to disappointment can either build or decay their character (and sense of humour!). I think that we should have the highest expectations of ourselves and others, as this is what propels us forward. 

If happiness is the goal, I think disappointments are a great opportunity to learn that real joy is NOT something that comes from the outside in. I expect a lot from the people around me, but I don't hold anyone responsible for my happiness.

A lesson: My 21st Birthday was spent in South Africa with my huge extended family. The gifts were beyond tragic: 2kg candles in the shape of faces, a holographic dolphin cuff-watch, and a furry leopard skin and diamante purse. But what topped this bizarre 12 year old themed list was the commemorative plate with a photo of my face stretched, so that I resembled a beardless swami, across the front from my most beloved uncle. The horrific plate was immediately passed around the large circle of Aunties who sporadically exclaimed “oh sooooo beautiful”, “sooooo thoughtful”. All of this could have sent me over the edge of self-pity and binge eating, but instead I kept a plate-stretched smile on my face and thanked every one earnestly for my gifts. Though I was not thankful for the trauma, I was genuinely thankful for the thought, the gesture, the kindness in their eyes, the love that I felt radiating from them toward me. Yes, I was very thankful!

I didn't need the Tiffany's bracelet or the subscription to Vogue Living or the Eames inspired wall hooks that's been sitting on my wish list for the last two years! I got a stack of crappy presents and something far more enduring and inexplicably valuable. (Don't you hate it when a writer writes "inexplicably", it's like "Come on, you're the wordsmith, give us an explication. That's just lazy." Well it's not lazy, it was beautiful beyond words, so why don't you back off cause you're ruining this touching moment.)

To be honest, that awful plate has given me more joy than any other gift I have ever received. I still have it, hidden in some dark place. One day soon, I’m going to dust it off, serve a delicious dinner for Mat on it and share the joy.

No comments:

Post a Comment